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Archival quality: Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo is being documented by Focus on the Masters

Focus on the Masters (FOTM) is a nonprofit art archive and education program that documents, preserves, and presents the works and lives of contemporary artists in southern California.

Founded in 1994 by Donna Granata, FOTM is the only biographical resource of its kind in the country. Its archive includes oral histories, videotaped interviews, photographic portraits and examples of artists’ work. I’m extremely honored to have been selected for inclusion.

leslie1

Going through images, stories, and themes of my life and artistic development is a deep and emotional process. Somewhat ironically, it brings up all kinds of old doubts and feelings of inadequacy even while buoying one’s spirit with its honor.

The old “imposter syndrome” rears its head (Did they really mean to choose ME? They must have made a mistake!).

And how we approach anything is how we approach everything (I seemed to start out organized and in control then, before I knew it, I was drowning in a sea of images, overwhelmed and second-guessing each choice).

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But mostly, I’m really grateful for having so much experience watching my mind. I can let the waves crash through and know that the ocean is doing just fine.

Donna is a great support. She clearly LOVES what she does, bringing artists’ stories to life and preserving them for appreciation and understanding in generations to come. Her endless curiosity and love, not only for the process but for each artist, is a gift!

 

leslie3

 

The culmination of the month-long documentation process is a videotaped interview with founder Donna Granata in front of a live studio audience. I’d love for you to be in that audience on March 28, 2015! I hope to share some of my love of life and beauty with you that night…

(And I hope to be able to edit and share the video with more of you in months to come. I’ll need your support for that. Stay tuned for a crowdfunding campaign soon!)

In the meantime, here’s your invitation to the live interview:

Please join us for Saturday Artist Spotlight 

featuring Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo

Saturday, March 28, 2015
Brooks Institute Screening Room,
5301 N. Ventura Ave., Ventura
6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

(Guests are requested to arrive by 5:30.  No one will be allowed to enter after taping begins.)

Buddha & the Six Supports by Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo
hand-stitched silk appliqué thangka, silk satin & brocade, gold, pearls, 78″ x 50″ 1997

Co-Sponsored by: Linda Carson and Michael Rohde
Ongoing Sponsors: Brooks Institute, Dennis Mitchell at I Capelli Salon, Passion Flowers, Pulse One and Peterson Graphics

Free to FOTM Members – $10 General public, $5 students and seniors.

All ages welcome!

Click here to reserve your seat today!

When Leslie Freilich’s name was changed by a Tibetan lama to Rinchen-Wongmo it was not done to deny her past but rather to catalyze a spirituality that she had been seeking. This Tibetan name means Precious Empowered Woman and reflects Leslie’s embrace of life and the philosophy of Buddhism. She creates thangkas, vibrantly colored, meticulously sewn, sacred fabric scrolls that act as objects for meditation, for contemplation. Creating a thangka (sounds like Tonka) involves techniques that are centuries old and a keen understanding of and appreciation for spiritual tradition. Over the years Leslie’s style has morphed from creating very traditional scrolls to a more modern, personal style that evokes both the ancient art form and modern quilting techniques. Whether ancient or modern, however, all of her art is infused with joy and serenity. Leslie has combined this ancient, spiritual art form with modern technology to create what she calls a “virtual atelier,” where she teaches people around the world via cyber space. Leslie says of her work: “I love that the images I create with my hands have helped many very special people to become free of suffering. I hope that in my small way I can open people’s hearts, that I can provide some stimulus or inspiration for their awakening.” Leslie’s work is collected and exhibited world-wide. Please join us.

Click here to reserve your seat today!

FOTM has entered our 20th year of programming.

Thank you for helping us bring the humanity behind the arts to life!

And as a special bonus, Himalaya restaurant in Ventura is offering to donate a portion of its income from supporters of the ARTS to Focus on the Masters on March 31 and throughout the month of April. Just print this flyer, take it to 35 W Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001, and enjoy a delicious meal while supporting artists, arts research, and arts education!

Himalaya FOTM flyer

 
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Stitching Connection into a Lotus Print

Lotus print, matted for framing.

 

A couple months ago, I received an intriguing request from a longtime subscriber to the Weekly Wake-Ups.

She wanted a print of my Lotus flower with a piece of hand-sewn work mounted in the frame.

“A small scrap of fabric with some horsehair cording attached… Something like a relic,” she said.

To me, it would give your energy to the print. Could that be done?

Why not?

Kasia (the woman who made this request) and I are kindred spirits in the crossed paths of fiber and awakening. Kasia’s been on my mailing list since 2010 and I’ve always admired her skill in creating circular textile pieces.

(Cutting and sewing circles on the perpendicular warp-weft of fabric is a challenge. There’s a strong tendency for the fabric to warp and the circle to distort. Kasia clearly has a special relationship with her fabric and has mastered the art of circles! Someday I hope she’ll teach me. In the meantime, her sweet book of textile mandalas inspires on my coffee table.)

So when she asked me to add a hand sewn silk-and-horsehair-cord fragment to a print for her, I immediately thought of circles.

Kasia I Am, LoveLight

Kasia I Am, LoveLight by Kasia

 

As is my tendency, I expanded on the original request…

Not satisfied to  attach just a bit of cord, my mind started to spin connections — between circles and Kasia, Kasia and me, the lotus and the bodhisattva, the circle and the mantra garland on a moon disc at the heart of the deity…

What emerged was this circle of silk, couched with horsehair cord to spell the Tibetan word padma (pronounced pe-ma, as in Pema Chodron).

I stitched horsehair cords to a circle of silk to spell out the fourth and fifth syllables of the mantra of compassion, om mani padme hung. These syllables also mean "lotus." Then I affixed the silk circle to the print with BEVA archival adhesive film.

I stitched horsehair cords to a circle of silk to form the fourth and fifth syllables of the mantra of compassion, om mani padme hum. These two syllables alone, pad-ma, spell the word “lotus.” I then affixed the inscribed circle to the Lotus print using BEVA archival adhesive film.

 

With a vowel marker over the second syllable, it becomes padme (pe-me), the fourth and fifth syllables at the heart of Chenrezig’s mantra om mani padme hum (sometimes translated as “Hail, the jewel in the lotus”). His Holiness the Dalai Lama says the  six syllables taken all together mean that, “in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha.”

 

Lotus print, signed and dated.

Signed and dated.

 

It’s been a joy to create something so personal and so simple, to stitch connections and to know the work will inspire.

I would love to make more of these personalized embellished prints. Let me know if you’d like one.

 

This inspiring picture book of Kasia's "Lovelights" (textile mandalas) can be purchased on Blurb.

An inspiring picture book of Kasia’s “LoveLights” (textile mandalas) can be purchased on Blurb.com.

Kasia (pronounced:  kaa sha) is a fiber artist with a passion for mandalas (circular designs). After surviving a critical illness, Kasia began seeing sacred circles everywhere she looked and soon began to create inspired fiber art based on these visions. She believes her technical skills are a gift and that color has a healing energy that lifts the Spirit within. Using her sewing machine and a variety of fabrics, paints, and threads, she creates colorful circular pieces that draw the viewer in for a closer look. She calls these pieces LoveLights©. Kasia’s mission is to share Love and Light through the work of her hands. 

 
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The best of your mind’s potential

Note from Leslie:

Learn Tibetan textile art in online apprenticeship with me. Make your art a sacred practice. The Stitching Buddhas Virtual Apprentice Program is the vehicle through which I teach creative, fabric-loving Buddhist women around the world to stitch sacred beauty — beauty like you see in these wake-ups each week. Visit StitchingBuddhas.com for more info and send me an email if you have any questions.

 
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Looking back

I’ve been rummaging through memories and memorabilia in preparation for my Focus on the Masters interview.

One of my earliest creative endeavors. My friend Sue and I made puppets from paper bags and invited the neighborhood kids to watch the shows we wrote, directed, and performed.

One of my earliest creative endeavors: my friend Sue and I made puppets from paper bags and invited the neighborhood kids to watch the shows we wrote, directed, and performed (circa 1966)

 

FOTM is a nonprofit art appreciation program that documents, preserves, and presents the works and lives of contemporary artists in southern California.

 

1966ish Art-a-matic

Early visual art… My abstract period ;-)

 

Was I a bit of a drama queen back then?

Was I a bit of a drama queen back then?

 

The FOTM archive includes oral histories, videotaped interviews, photographic portraits, and examples of artists’ work. I’m extremely honored to have been selected for inclusion.

 

1975 travel journal

My first travel abroad: two months in Europe with the family. I kept an illustrated journal with reminders of funny moments. We arrived in London too early to check in to our apartment and were welcomed in the park by a pooping pigeon who had no respect for our map. Got me started off well on “rough travel” ;-)

 

Founded in 1994 (while I was living in Dharamsala learning Tibetan appliqué as an apprentice), FOTM is the only biographical resource project of its kind in the country.

 

1992 Norbulingka first sight of Tibetan applique

My first glimpse of Tibetan applique at the Norbulingka Institute in 1992. The buildings were still under construction at that time, but beautiful creations were already forming inside. I’m so grateful for that day and for that excursion as an economic development volunteer…

 

1993ish apprentice group Dharamsala Dorje Wangdu

With my precious teacher, Dorje Wangdu, and fellow apprentices in Dharamsala. We’re all dressed up traditionally (not an everyday occurrence) so it was probably Losar (Tibetan New Year), 1993 or 1994.

 

Part of the FOTM documentation process is a taped interview with founder Donna Granata in front of a live studio audience.  Let me know if you’d like to be in that audience on March 28!

 

1996 stitching at home with Pooja

Stitching a Buddha while my neighbor Pooja knits. In Dharamsala, circa 1996.

 
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Today’s stitching

I’m working on a new commission for the woman with whom my Saraswati thangka lives.

This one is personal, nontraditional.

Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo work in progress 2015

I love the movement of this water. The waves were a challenge to stitch… so many little curves… and the white thread is so delicate it breaks after every few stitches!

 

It’s designed to reflect themes of darkness and light, open spaces and narrow places… themes that have arisen in the patron’s life and which we explored in retreat together.

 

Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo work in progress 2015

Fluffy clouds always make me happy… in the sky and in my work. The forms are so gentle, the colors soft, the stitching an easy pleasure.

 

It’s fun to work with a variety of fabrics

 

Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo work in progress 2015

It all starts with fabric… well, no, I suppose it starts earlier, with the silkworm and the cotton plant and the workers and their parents… and all the way back through beginningless time.

 

Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo work in progress 2015

Dancing lotus blossoms :-)

 

I’m enjoying this new process. Always curious as to what will emerge. Still not sure what shape the finished piece will take.

 

Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo work in progress 2015

Fertile mud, leafy moisture, pristine lotus emerging.

 

Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo work in progress 2015

Open space of possibility. Waiting only for the sun.

 

Stay tuned…

 
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